Energy Production in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was the country’s first state to operate a nuclear power plant for electricity generation and is today the second-largest nuclear-generated electricity state after Illinois. But in recent years the triple threat of the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale natural gas boom, wind power subsidies, and solar power subsidies have hit the state’s nuclear industry hard. Consequently the power company Exelon has announced plans to shutdown the generating station at Three Mile Island—yes, that Three Mile Island—in 2019 if Pennsylvania does not rescue the industry as have the states of Illinois and New York, each facing similar challenges.

I wanted to take a look at the electricity generated by nuclear power in Pennsylvania, but had to settle for energy produced. And while the data was only as recent as 2014, it did extend back to 1960 thereby dating back almost as far back as nuclear power in Pennsylvania—it began in 1957.

The subject has always been of interest to me and was the focus of one of my first data visualisation pieces back at university. And so while the data is not quite the same, nor over the same geographic area, it is interesting to see the spike since even 2008. (Worth noting that even in a coal state the long, slow decline of coal even before President Obama is self-evident.)

The rise of Marcellus Shale natural gas has been quick and dramatic
The rise of Marcellus Shale natural gas has been quick and dramatic

Unfortunately the EIA data came through a .pdf and not a more accessible data file so I spent most of my time recreating the data. Consequently, I had little time to do more than track these changes. But even still, I think you would agree the message is clear: natural gas has quickly disrupted the market. (Let’s again ignore the fact I could not plot renewable energy sources.)

Small disclaimer I suppose, I have always supported nuclear power as part of a non-carbon energy portfolio. But I also grew up within sight of and fascinated by the Limerick Generating Station steam clouds, so call me biased.

Credit for this graphic is mine.

Your State’s Power Sources

By now you should all know that I am a sucker for small multiples. They are a great way of separating out noise and letting each object be seen for its own. You should also know that I am a sucker for things industrial, e.g. nuclear power. So when you put the two together like NPR did earlier this month, well, I am going to be a huge fan.

All 50 states
All 50 states

Credit for the piece goes to Alyson Hurt.

Where’s Your Power Coming From?

A few weeks back the White House announced some new plans for clean electricity. The Washington Post put together an interactive graphic looking at the sources for American power.

America's power sources
America’s power sources

Credit for the piece goes to John Muyskens, Dan Keating, and Samuel Granados.

Enriching Uranium

This past weekend, the US and allies reached an agreement with Iran on the Iranian nuclear programme. In this graphic the Washington Post explains the several steps necessary to take uranium and make it useful for a reactor, a research reactor, and nuclear weapons. Admittedly, a simplified diagram, but still quite useful.

Enriching uranium
Enriching uranium

Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.

Fixing Fukushima

Two and a half years ago an earthquake and then tsunami devastated Japan. But it was the tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear power station and created the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Unfortunately things are still not working properly and the plant is still leaking radioactive particles into the local environment. This interactive guide from the Guardian illustrates just what Tepco, the power company responsible for the plant, is trying to do to prevent further radiation from leaking into the ocean.

Location of silt fences
Location of silt fences

Credit for the piece goes to Paddy Allen and the Graphic News.